Too High a Cost, Perhaps Too Bright a Spotlight

Transferring Henninger Flats to a "Tongva" conservancy won't be happening.

2 mins read
A person holding a sign in front of a rock
James Henninger Aguirre at Henninger Flats. Photo: Family

As reported exclusively by Local News Pasadena in January, a California non-profit organization named the Tongva Taraxat Paxaavxa Conservancy (TTPC) quietly began discussions with Los Angeles County in 2023 about how to acquire the local 230-acre mountain campground at Henninger Flats.

This was in furtherance of TTPC’s stated mission to create community and house Native people, practice ceremony and rematriate the land.

The organization framed the perpetual transfer of County property to their nonprofit as an indigenous “land back” arrangement, which has precedent elsewhere in California but never at this scale.

But after the TTPC transfer overture became public knowledge as a result of our reporting, accusations of questionable local indigenous ancestry were raised about some of TTPC’s leadership by the California-recognized Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians, Kizh Nation.

Two months later, we can report that any potential Henninger Flats acquisition deal with TTPC is, as described succinctly by a source connected with the Altadena Town Council, “dead.”

By that time the Kizh had retained an attorney specializing in Native American law to advise the tribe about property rights and financial interests as well as to help preserve their ancestral identity, character, culture, and history.

Two months later, we can report that any potential Henninger Flats acquisition deal with TTPC is, as described succinctly by a source connected with the Altadena Town Council, “dead.”

The official reason? Maintenance costs.

According to LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, “Due to the location of Henninger Flats, the cost of maintaining the site—including the roadway, buildings, and irrigation—is high. Therefore, it is my understanding that the property is not cost-effective for the Conservancy to take on.”

“My greatest priority for the future of the Henninger Flats property is that it is stewarded well for the good of the community at large,” said Barger. “I remain committed to ensuring that we find a solution that will allow us to maintain this beloved property for the public’s enjoyment.”

Of course, it’s worth remembering that TTPC had previous success in receiving funding of $779,000 for landscaping maintenance costs through a grant from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for an existing one-acre parcel it owns, located on the rim of Eaton Canyon.

And that ain’t nuthin’.

When contacted about the “Tongva” nonprofit reversing course, indigenous author James Henninger Aguirre, a direct lineal descendant of William Kimber Henninger, said the entire Henninger family was against the potential transfer of the campground to TTPC.

On behalf of the Henninger family, Aguirre wrote, “We would appreciate being involved with the decision to transfer the land to a legitimate group that will protect and preserve our family name and history, but also the history of the original indigenous people of this area known as the San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians Kizh tribe.”

For her part, Barger wants to maintain a relationship with TTPC. She says she looks forward to “future opportunities to collaborate with the Conservancy in service to the community.”

Local News Pasadena contacted TTPC’s president and co-founder Wallace Cleaves Jr. for comment regarding this story. No comment was received.

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Phil Hopkins

Phil is the Associate Publisher of Local News Pasadena. He is a 35-year resident of the city and his favorite local delicacy is the Combo Grinder at Connal's.
Email: [email protected]


  1. Great News!!!
    In the Kizh Gabrieleno community there has ALWAYS been a question of their ancestry.When they can produce a Board Certified Genealogist report that goes back to the building of the San Gabriel Mission like I can, they WILL NEVER BE ACCEPTED!!!
    STRICK 1 Pretendians!!!!
    I think it’s time you become another Indian in another STATE!!!

  2. Hello Phil,

    We appreciate you bringing this matter to light.

    Why hasn’t LA County acknowledged the Kizh people, a California Tribal Government with documented lineal descendants, for land-back opportunities and community service collaborations? Why does the County prioritize conservancy interests over a tribal government with a documented lineage to Henninger Flats and the entire county?

    “These counterfeit conservation efforts resonate with tactics previously used against our tribe in 1993. Wallace Cleaves Jr. is well aware of the deception, considering his father, Wallace Cleaves Sr.’s involvement in similar schemes targeting us during that time. It’s reminiscent of the creation of the Tongva Springs Foundation in 1993, fabricating a tribe out of thin air. The only difference today is that the public, along with the county, are the victims being targeted.”

    Chairman Andrew Salas, direct lineal descendant of the Kizh Nation Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians Tribal Government (AJR96), representing indigenous descendants of the Los Angeles and Orange County Region.

  3. My entire Henninger family would like to thank you Phil Hopkins for having the courage to tell the truth and doing the research to back up your article with verified proof. Sometimes telling the truth is not popular but the truth will set you free in the end. I hope that your superiors will acknowledge and recognize the excellent work that you have done as a reporter to take a stand and tell the truth. The San Gabriel Band Of Mission Indians “Kizh” Tribe have a great deal of respect for what you have done for the benefit of all the people who live in the area of the San Gabriel Valley. We can accomplish anything with no limitations because there are no limitations on anything we can accomplish. Thank You!

  4. As an archaeologist specializing in the study of indigenous cultures within the Los Angeles basin, I wish to respectfully clarify a matter of historical accuracy. After rigorous research and analysis, it has become evident that the narrative surrounding the existence of a tribe known as the Tongva is unsubstantiated by archaeological evidence. I commend Chairman Salas for his unwavering commitment to safeguarding the genuine heritage of the lineal descendants of this region.

  5. I would like to give a special thanks to Andy Salas chief of Kizh Nation Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians the first lineal descendants of the LA basin and Orange county. I want a personally say that I have learned a lot of factual history from the kizh Nations and not just word of mouth but actual documented history. It is amazing what our children are learning today which is not fact-based history but a false narrative. What chief Salas is doing today will not only correct current history but will also set the path to true identity and healing for all first Nations peoples. The road will be rough ahead, but with truth and the leadership of Andy Salas, the people of the Kizh Nation will finally take control of the narrative of their story of the LA basin. I stand 100% in solidarity with the people of the Kizh Nation on their journey. May the ancestors be with us all.

  6. Although money ultimately ended this venture, I’m pleased to see a falsely named non-profit organization wasn’t able to steal property much like it was taken from previous land owners such as Pio Pico by using inaccurate documents. It’s a shame people use these tactics claiming a race they aren’t a part of for selfish agendas, along with those others tied into a ploy to gain wealth.

  7. It’s time for politician’s, federal, state, county and city to start being responsible and be respectful to my native ancestors and start demanding genealogy report from any native that wishes to do business in Gabrieleno territory.
    I came before the LA County Supervisors Council with the first page of my genealogy and they didn’t even show me respect by looking at it.
    Practice what you preach about showing RESPECT to native tribes.
    You are the problem along with PRETENDIANS!!!

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